HELENA — Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has confirmed grizzly bear sightings near Helena this year.
According to a press release from the department, grizzlies or evidence of the species have been seen in the North Hills and Grizzly Gulch areas near Helena. They have also been spotted in the Elkhorn Mountains near Clancy.
Grizzly bear populations have been on the rise between the Northern Continental Divide and the Greater Yellowstone ecosystems. In recent years, bears were found in areas they had not been seen in over 100 years.
In addition to the greater Helena area, grizzlies have recently been seen in the Little Belt Mountains, the Pryor Mountains southeast of Billings and the Shields Valley north of Livingston.
“Vigilance is important for those who live and recreate in the outdoors,” said Quentin Kujala, chief of conservation policy for FWP. “This is a busy time of year for bears and our field staff are responding to calls in these particular areas and across the state.”
FWP recommends people take the following steps to avoid attracting bears to their property and being safe in bear country:
How to avoid attracting bears to your property
- Store garbage in an IGBC-certified bear-resistant bin or other similarly resistant building or container at all times until the day of disposal.
- Avoid leaving food or smell attractants next to windows, doors or outside walls.
- Do not leave out pet food, bird feeders and bird seed or BBQs.
- Bears are attracted to fruit-bearing trees and bushes, gardens and compost piles. Electric fencing can be effective at deterring bears as well as routinely picking fallen and ripe fruit.
- Secure vulnerable livestock (chickens, goats, sheep) with an electric fence whenever possible.
Tips for recreating in bear country
- Carry bear spray close at hand and know how to use it.
- Travel in groups whenever possible and plan to be back to your vehicle in the daylight hours.
- Avoid carcass sites and concentrations of ravens and other scavengers.
- Watch for signs of bears such as bear scat, diggings, torn-up logs and turned over rocks, and partly consumed animal carcasses.
- Make noise, especially near streams or in thick forest where hearing and visibility is limited. This can be the key to avoiding encounters. Most bears will avoid humans when they know humans are present.
- Don't approach a bear.